Do you have roses growing in your garden?
If not, you might want to plant some now. That’s because at the end of the growing season—late summer or early fall, depending on where you live—you’ll see cherry-sized orbs called rose hips form on the bushes.
Nutritious little fruits filled with vitamin C and other antioxidants, rose hips are left behind at the tops of the stems when the blooms die.
Like cranberries, rose hips are sweet and tangy. You can harvest them at home and use them in all sorts of delicious ways…
EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES
Nearly all varieties of rose produce hips, but the Rosa rugosa tends to produce the largest, best-tasting and most numerous hips, we learned from Peter Kukielski, senior advisor to The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at The New York Botanical Garden in New York City. This type of rose is hardy—it thrives in a variety of temperature zones where other species of roses would not…and it’s even tolerant of salt spray from the ocean.
If you’re going to eat hips from your roses, take an organic approach and use only pesticides that have been labeled for use on edibles, Kukielski advised. Also, keep in mind that if you deadhead (cut off faded roses to encourage bigger, showier blooms later on), you won’t get rose hips—so either quit deadheading altogether…do it on only a portion of your stems…or stop deadheading toward the end of the season.
Rose hips start out green, gradually become yellow, then turn a deep orange-red. They are ready to pluck when they’re orange-red and yield to gentle pressure, which usually happens after the first frost of the winter season. (To see when the first frost is likely to occur in your area, click here.)
Timing is key. If you pick rose hips too early, they won’t be as sweet as they could be…but if you wait too long, they become shriveled and mushy and won’t taste good. Harvesting is simple—just use clippers to snip hips off their stems.
PREPPING ROSE HIPS TO EAT
After harvesting, rinse rose hips in cold water, trim off stems and blossom ends, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Deseeding is important because the hairy seeds can irritate your intestinal tract. (In fact, some folks call the resulting discomfort “itchy bottom disease”!) Extract tiny seeds with the sharp tip of a knife…scoop out larger seeds with a teaspoon. Hip tip: Rose hips retain the most nutritional benefit and seeds are easiest to remove when the hips are slightly dried and their skin is wrinkly.
Important: Do not use aluminum pots, pans, cookie sheets, containers, foil or utensils to prepare or store your rose hips. Aluminum discolors the hips and destroys their vitamin C. (Stainless steel is OK.)
You can eat the fresh, deseeded rose hips right away by themselves…or if you won’t be using them within a few days, you can refrigerate, freeze or dry them. Store fresh, cleaned, deseeded hips in small, sealed plastic bags or airtight plastic containers for up to several months in the refrigerator or for up to two years in the freezer (defrost before using).
To dry rose hips, spread them on a cookie sheet (line the sheet with parchment paper if it is made of aluminum) and place them in a 140° oven for several hours until they’re crisp. Or spread them on a tray in a dark, well-ventilated room for several days until they shrivel up like raisins. Store dried hips in airtight containers, such as sealable plastic bags—no need to refrigerate or freeze.
To tap into your rose hips’ rich supply of vitamin C—as well as vitamins A, B, E and K plus calcium, iron and phosphorus—try these creative ways to incorporate the fruit into your diet…
For satisfying crispiness: Grab a handful of dried rose hips and munch on them as a snack…throw a bunch into your salad…or toss some onto your morning cereal.
For a tangy sip: To brew a cup of refreshing rose hips tea, steep one tablespoon of dried hips in a cup of boiling water for five minutes. You can strain out the hips after steeping, if desired, or go ahead and eat them.
For a smooth sensation: Use fresh hips to make a tasty purée. Combine four cups of deseeded rose hips with two cups of water in a nonaluminum pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Take the mixture out of the pot, and press it through a strainer over a bowl. Place what remains in the strainer back in the pot, and add water to almost cover the contents. Simmer again for 15 minutes, and push through the strainer as before. Repeat the process with what is left in the strainer one more time. Then discard what remains in the strainer, which will be the skins. What’s left in your bowl will be the pure fruit purée. Add a squeeze of lemon or a shake of cinnamon to taste, if desired. Then serve the colorful, fruity topping over yogurt, cottage cheese or—yes!—ice cream.